Bluedot Festival: The How it Works Highlights from 2018

We returned to our favourite cosmic festival for three nights of live music, hands-on experiments, and engaging talks from some of the world’s greatest minds

It’s no secret that Bluedot Festival is one of the highlights of the How it Works calendar; we love the atmosphere, we love working our way between lectures and the bar, and we love the excitement and energy of the thousands of people who turned up for a weekend of creative experiments, engaging workshops, interesting talks, and live music. But this year we took a bit of a different approach. We wanted to see if the Bluedot Festival lineup really can offer something to everyone.

So, taking advantage of Bluedot’s free entry policy for children under the age of five, we took along Idris – our tiny photography assistant-in-training. We piled the team and energetic three year old into the back of our VW Campervan to see if this festival fusion of science, art and culture really has something to offer the entire family – even the littlest of scientists. And we were not disappointed!

The incredible amount of things to do seems even more exciting when you’re looking across a field filled with bubbles and colourful lights from the eyes of a very inquisitive three-year-old. Here were some of our highlights from the Bluedot Festival lineup…

Big Fish Little Fish Rave

After some intense science talks we were looking forward to taking some time out to let our hair down, and what better excuse than Big Fish Little Fish?

So, ditching our notebooks for glowsticks, we hit up this family-orientated rave for an exciting music and dance party. The rave is aimed at young children, with confetti cannons and bubble machines, and staff on-site to help you make feather headbands before you hit the dancefloor.

Idris loved this, and we quickly clocked up some serious mileage on our FitBits.

Jim Al-Khalili and Richard Dawkins in conversation

One of the biggest events at the festival this year was Jim Al-Khalili, theoretical physicist, and Richard Dawkins, evolutionary biologist, in conversation on one of the main stages. The two scientists spoke about the achievements of homosapien and our successes in space exploration. We loved the points raised about inclusivity in science.

As Richard Dawkins put it: “You don’t need to know how to use a bunsen burner to appreciate the value of science.”

Pentalum luminarium

We really like the sort of art we can climb into an explore, so we were really pleased to see the Pentalum Luminarium on site this year. This immersive experience allows you to appreciate colour with a newfound sense of appreciation through a labyrinth of illuminated tunnels and domes.

Taking a few minutes to lie down and watch the lights inside the Luminarium is a really calming contrast to the energetic atmosphere outside.

Dr Jon Copley on ocean exploration

Have you ever dreamt about exploring the bottom of the ocean?

Dr Jon Copley has done just that – diving deeper than any other British person in history. He spoke about his adventures in ocean exploration including discovering new species and seeing spiders the size of dinner plates crawling along the ocean floor. Dr Copley’s stories of hairy-chested Hoff crabs (named after actor David Hasselhoff) and metal-plated snail feet were all brought to life with incredible photographs.

He even bought with him, safely encased in resin, some of the creatures he discovered.

Dr. Jon Copley let us get up close to two of the species he discovered; a Chrysomallon squamiferum (aka scaly-foot snail) from the Indian Ocean, and a shrimp called Rimicaris hybisae from the Caribbean

Getting dressed up

This year we saw some of the most out-of-this-world costumes, including aliens, sci-fi characters, and sea creatures. It’s a great characteristic unique to Bluedot to see so many people in costumes relating to science and it really contributes to the festival’s lively and exciting energy.

If you’re a grown up and feel like you’re missing out, don’t worry – dressing up isn’t just for kids! Lots of adults were enjoying the fun too.

We might even dig out our astronaut costumes next year.

Tamed with Alice Roberts

Dr Alice Roberts, osteoarchaeologist and author, held a fantastic talk at the festival on the animals our ancestors tamed: dogs, cattle and horses.

Following the release of her new book, Tamed: Ten Species That Changed Our World, Dr Roberts gave an immersive and engaging talk on how these species became essential to the survival and success of our species.

We loved learning about how humans went from hunter-gathers who hardly impacted the world around them to the civilisation we are today.

Hands-on experiments

From playing with mysterious non-Newtonian fluid (that hardly acts like a fluid at all) and building viruses made from 3D printed jigsaw pieces, to digging through sand to find hidden parasitic eggs and experimenting with the effects of black holes using basketballs and a trampoline, there were so many things to explore.

It’s also a great way for kids to interact with scientists and make friends. We asked Idris which was his favourite experiment; “The water experiment – not the one with the poo the one with the rockets that went under water.”

Left to right: Idris and his water rockets, kids having fun with non-Newtonian fluid, and a physics experiment explaining the affect of mass on gravitational pull

Our three nights at Bluedot were some of the best of summer, and as for our verdict on this festival from a family-orientated point of view – take the whole family. There’s so much to do for the grown ups, but exploring with the children makes the magic and wonder of an out of this world festival even more enjoyable (though perhaps also a little more exhausting). Idris left with a new-found knowledge of radio telescopes and the experience of picnicking alongside some of the greatest minds in science between racing across the fields, chasing bubbles, building things, eating too many ice-creams, and learning about 3D printing.

We asked him about his highlights: “My favourite thing is the big telescope, and I liked it when we met the scientist [Dr. Jon Copley] who had discovered the creatures.”

One of our favourite things about Bluedot has been the level of safety. Jess loved the atmosphere of the family orientated festival; “As a parent, I really appreciated that it felt safe and cosy enough for my son to run free, but also that there was a mix of activities and people there – it wasn’t so kid-focused that an adult couldn’t relax and enjoy the gin bar! As a photographer, I loved how visual the festival was, with the telescope stood in the background and so much colour in the foreground. Everyone made such an effort with their outfits for the festival, proving that science really isn’t boring!”

Staff writer Charlie and Idris say goodbye to the Lovell Telescope at Bluedot 2018

Bluedot Festival returns to Jodrell Bank on 18 July 2019 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Moon landings. Sign up on the website for news about the Bluedot Festival lineup and for access to pre-sale tickets to explore the child-friendly areas of our favourite festival; volcano experiments, rocket launches, bubble machines

Images by photographer Jess Rose who you can find on Instagram here

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Other articles you might like:

Five tips and tricks you need to know before going to Bluedot Festival

An Interview with Bluedot Festival’s Teresa Anderson

5 feel-good space facts to combat the post-Bluedot blues